by Warren Farrell
Even as the coronavirus has deprived many dads of the ability to provide, it has allowed many children to value dad’s time as much as dad’s dime. It has helped many dads experience at a deeper level that, while their career is for now, their children are forever. And it is bringing to the conscious level an unconscious “Father’s Catch-22” — the pressure to love his family by being away from the love of his family.
Since the mid-’60s, an ever-increasing number of our children have found themselves separated from their dads. This rise of father absence often leaves single moms overwhelmed; dads depressed with neither purpose nor love; children more likely to be damaged in over 50 developmental areas; and pockets of fatherlessness that become pockets of crime.
As we’ve gone from the era of Father Knows Best to “Father Knows Less,” this Father’s Day is a perfect time to rediscover the value of dad. Let’s start with dads’ methods of bonding.
Dads are more likely to roughhouse and to teach their children to both win and lose as they actively engage them in games. When a dad stops the roughhousing because the children are too rough, the children’s resentment is less because they’ve been excited, laughing, and bonding with their dad.
Dad-style parenting, like roughhousing, is often denounced as dangerous, or insensitive — for example, as when a child cries because dad beat her or him in a game. But the data shows counterintuitive outcomes, such as an increase in a child’s empathy, social skills, and postponed gratification.
Dad-deprived boys and girls alike are more vulnerable to suffering in 50-plus areas of development. But dad-deprived boys are likely to suffer more intensely — by emotional withdrawal, depression, obesity, ADHD, imprisonment, and addiction to video games, pornography, alcohol, drugs, death by opioids, and suicide.
The cumulative effect is a boy crisis. Today, boys are 66% more likely than girls to be living at home between ages 25 and 31. They are falling behind girls in almost every academic subject — especially in reading and writing, the two biggest predictors of success. Forty-three percent more boys than girls are dropping out of high school, and even before COVID, more than 20% of these boys were unemployed in their early 20s — 6 times the national pre-COVID average.
Many single moms heroically raise productive and caring boys, usually with pivotal input from other males. But on average, the boy crisis resides where dads do not reside.
Dad-deprived children are less likely to solve problems and more likely to create problems. Prisoners, mass shooters, and ISIS recruits have more in common than just being male: The great majority are males who are also traumatized by being dad-deprived. And a disproportionate percentage of these dad-deprived males are inner city and African American. These boys hurt. And boys who hurt too often hurt us. When boys’ testosterone is channeled well, it is one of the world’s most constructive forces; when channeled poorly, it is one of the world’s most destructive forces.
Today, our country is less threatened by the destruction of the nation from the outside than by the destruction of the family from the inside. Dad-deprived boys, hungry for role models, are sitting ducks for terrorist recruiters and gangs who promise these boys a ready-made “family.” And the economic cost of cleaning up the results of the trauma of dad-deprived boys who become drug dealers, mass shooters, ISIS recruits, or fill our prisons, is about a trillion dollars per year. That destruction of the family from the inside magnifies COVID’s threat to the nation from the outside.
In times of crisis, young men have always been willing to give their lives to serve our country. With the COVID crisis, we must call upon millions of our dads to serve America by returning to the family as loving dads. We must call upon our courts to be certain that divorce does not mean that moms have the right to children while dads have to fight for children— often leaving the poorest families, without the resources for dads to fight, with children who can least afford to be dad-deprived.
With COVID creating the greatest challenge to American prosperity since the Great Depression, the economy will not recover if the government must financially remain a substitute parent. We must create a cultural shift from the rights of parents to the rights of children — knowing that, whenever possible, the best parent is both parents. The frustrated hope of “No Child Left Behind” will continue to feel hopeless if a parent is left behind.
We must call upon America’s dads to help moms raise the economically productive and psychologically motivated children who can reverse the racial crisis and recreate America’s economic prosperity.
Warren Farrell, Ph.D., is author of The Boy Crisis(with John Gray) and Why Men Are the Way They Are.